Friday, July 06, 2012

Chichester's new £7m museum displays Roman past

Remains of Roman bath house that was exca­vat­ed in the 1970s then reburied form cen­tre­piece of Novi­um muse­um

The most spec­tac­u­lar object in Chich­ester's gleam­ing new muse­um is also the largest and costli­est to dis­play, fill­ing the ground floor. When the £7m build­ing opens to the pub­lic on Sun­day, local peo­ple will be get the chance to see a trea­sure that has been buried under an unlove­ly car park for most of their lives.

A sub­stan­tial well-preserved chunk of what was an enor­mous Roman bath­house com­plex was found in the 1970s, when 19th-century build­ings were demol­ished. Since it was too frag­ile to leave exposed, it was buried again.

The muse­um, designed by archi­tect Keith Williams, had to be stepped care­ful­ly across a deep pit, which now reveals the Roman remains, 1.5 metres below street level, enclosed by glass cases hold­ing the bits and bobs dropped by the last bathers almost 2,000 years ago: dress pins, oint­ment and oil jars, a reg­i­men­tal badge.